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10 years on, Kaleb Davis still a miracle man

Photo submitted
One of the first smiles Kaleb Davis gives his family after waking from his coma in 2003.

Originally published: Jul. 4, 2013
Last modified: Jul. 4, 2013

Adam Orr

Kaleb Davis still remembers looking up and catching a glimpse of the falling limb that nearly took his life.

On May 31, 2003, 11-year old Davis was camping with family and friends and relishing the end of fifth grade at Blue Ridge Elementary.

“It was raining a little and the wind was blowing pretty good, but I didn’t think anything about it,” Kaleb said. “I remember walking toward the treeline, and the next thing I know my uncle is waving at me. I looked up and the image I’ve seen ever since is just tree bark coming at me.”

The 200-pound widowmaker limb slammed into Kaleb’s left shoulder, just narrowly missing his head.

“It it’d been an inch or two to the right, it’d of killed me instantly,” Kaleb said. “To this day, that’s one of the last things I remember.”

After being rushed to Ashe Memorial Hospital, Kaleb was treated for a broken arm and hand, but staff told the Davis family Kaleb needed to be taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for further treatment.

Further testing revealed that Davis had a lacerated spleen, and bruised liver but more importantly, injuries to the network of nerve fibers, the brachial plexus, that ran from his spine to his arm, according to his mother Laneice Davis.

“It jerked the nerves out of my left arm, the five main nerves, out of the spinal cord,” Davis said.

The nerve injury worried her, Laneice said, but doctors also discovered a blood clot in Kaleb’s arm that needed to be taken care of, for which blood thinners were prescribed.

What doctor’s couldn’t foresee was the pressure building on Kaleb’s spinal column due to blood seeping in through areas damaged in the accident. A surgical procedure followed to repair the damage, according to Laneice, but the diagnosis was not good.

“We were told he’d be paralyzed, that he’d be a quadriplegic and that prayers and God were the only thing that could save him,” Laneice said. “But by the next morning, Kaleb was moving his feet. I really feel the people of Ashe County save my child’s life with their prayers.”

But Kaleb’s toughest test was yet to come, in the form of a halo device to designed to keep his neck stationary.

“The idea was to be totally immobilized, to the point I couldn’t move at all, to help with my recovery,” Kaleb said.

The procedure would be quick and simple, according to his mother, with no side effects.

“During the procedure, we were waiting in intensive care,” Laneice said, “and they told us Kaleb was coming back up and everything was ok.”

But a mother always knows when something just isn’t right.

“When they brought him back in the room, the IC nurse came in and I remember saying to her something isn’t right,” Laneice said. “So she decided to check his pupils again, and practically threw the light across the room.”

After paging his doctor, the nurse wheeled Kaleb out of the room and down the hall, leaving his family in stunned horror. What they didn’t know at the time, according to Laneice, was that one of the pins that held Kaleb’s halo in place had hit a blood vessel and was putting dangerous pressure on his brain.

“At that point I knew something was bad wrong,” Laneice said. “We were left in the family counseling room when the chaplain came in. I told her we just need you to pray.”

Kaleb was fortunate to begin surgery almost immediately, his mother said, though they worried he would need full-time care when he awakened. For nine days, he remained in a medically induced coma.

“During the coma, I remember praying and asking for a vision of what Kaleb would look like when he was 18, because I wanted to know he would live,” Laneice said. “It never came, but focusing on that helped me through that time.”

But the worst part?

“When I woke up, I realized how gorgeous it was outside,” Kaleb said with a laugh. “I did not want to be stuck in that hospital.”

In the fall of 2003, Kaleb began his long road to recovery, which continues today.

Throughout middle and high school, Kaleb endured surgeries, and physical therapy - all while juggling the normal coursework of other students.

“The school system has been wonderful, all the way up to Wilkes Community College,” Laneice said. “We couldn’t have worked with a better group of people, and the students were always there for Kaleb, always there to pick him up.”

These days, Kaleb is completely independent and studies agriculture at WCC, but continues physical therapy and works for the full use of his left arm.

“My doctors think that I’ll be able to at least move from the elbow up, but of course I’m hoping for the whole thing,” Kaleb said. “I’ve had to have a lot of nerve graft, and they grow slow, but I’m hopeful.”

And for all those who prayed for him and helped him through his recovery, Kaleb said he is grateful.

“All across the county, a lot of people were praying, and I really appreciate that,” Kaleb said. “The main credit goes to God, but Ashe has come together and really been good to me.”

And for the mother who hoped and prayed to see her son as a young man?

“Watching Kaleb walk across the stage at his high school graduation, I remembered asking for that vision,” Laneice said. “And that’s exactly what I wanted to see.”

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For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.